A Starred Review for STORM RISING and a Giveaway!

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We’re less than two months away from the release of FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING! And we just had the great thrill of receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who described the book as “Exceptional… The descriptions of the teamwork between dog and human are detailed and dramatic, and the interactions between Meg and Todd as their relationship develops are convincing. Readers will hope this series has a long run.” If you’re interested in the full review (with some light storyline spoilers) you can find it here.

To celebrate a great review, we’re giving away 5 softcover advanced reading copies of STORM RISING. Interested in a free copy almost two months before it releases to the general public? Then enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below! Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Good luck!

The New Trade Paperback Versions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries Are Out!

I'm happy to say that the new trade paperback versions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries are now live on all the Amazons. For those who are interested, you'll find them at the following linked locations:


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DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT: amazon.com, amazon.ca, and amazon.co.uk.

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A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH: amazon.com, amazon.ca, and amazon.co.uk.

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TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER: amazon.com, amazon.ca, and amazon.co.uk.


Thank you to all of you who have come with me on the journey through all these great new covers. Enjoy!


We've finally come to the last of the new covers for the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries' new release in trade paperback format. Once again, many thanks to Jess Danna Photography for the wonderful custom job. She was tireless in giving me exactly what I needed for all the covers and I'm thrilled with the results.

This cover is the one that is closest to the original, but that's because this is the scene that starts off the whole book. When Five Star asked for our input on what we wanted on the cover, it was our answer then, and it's still our answer. Our cover is just a little closer to the actual prose. *big grin*

The case in TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER kicks off when Prohibition-era skeletal remains are found inside the wall of a Massachusetts speakeasy, lost to time for roughly seventy years. Jess built this image out of pieces instead of starting with a base photograph as she had for DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT and A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. She used a skull from the pictures that I took in 2011 for this blog when I was doing a series of blog posts on using skeletons to determine sex and age (you'll see this same skull gracing the cover of LAMENT THE COMMON BONES). The sledgehammer used by Matt and Rowe to take down the wall came from a photo shoot Jess did for one of her Bachelor of Photography projects at a blacksmith's workshop. And the bricks themselves came from a number of pictures taken at a condemned building in town.

The only other aspect I wanted to make sure was captured was the flavour of Prohibition. So Jess added an aged barrel, just like the ones found in the back room of the speakeasy.

Put it all together and this is the final result:

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And the full cover for the trade paperback print version:

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This cover was the most work intensive of all of them as it was built from components and had to be combined seamlessly. But I'm very please by how it came out.

And now the good news! The trade paperback versions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries will be available on April 24th through Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Amazon.co.uk. That's next week! So if you want copies of these new versions (D, I'm looking at you!), I'll be back next week with active buy links. See you then!


This week I'm happy to present the next new cover in the new trade paperback editions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. Once again, this cover comes care of Jess Danna Photography.

Of all the original covers we had, this was the one I was least happy with, partly because it was the least organic. There are so many themes in this book that combining them all in the cover lead to an image that looked artificially constructed, at least to my eye (news flash - I'm a scientist and a writer, not an art director, so I may have this all wrong). So in designing the cover, I wanted to simplify things. We have both the themes of firefighting as well as witchcraft, so I chose to go with the theme of fire because in many ways, fire fulfills the role of one of the books antagonists.

There are three major fires in the book - an antique store, a church, and a residential home. Of the three, I felt the second fire at the church had the greatest visual potential. The church we used while writing the book was based on Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church in Boston (though our fictional church was located in Salem) which closed in 2008. In it's heyday, this was what Holy Trinity looked like:

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There was no way I'd be able make a quick trip down to Boston to get an actual shot of the church, but Jess had the perfect answer - a smaller church of similar architecture not far from her apartment. So we waited until it finally stopped snowing (January in Canada, what can I say?) and trekked downtown so Jess could shoot the church. She took a bunch of shots, but this ended up being the perfect one:


This was a great place to start, but there was still a lot that needed to change. The fire takes place at night, in October, just a few days before Halloween (so, no snow...), and the church needed to be a raging inferno complete with flames, smoke, and a glowing skyline.  Jess managed all that through Photoshop.

From a late afternoon, sunny winter scene, she gave us this:

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And the full cover for the trade paperback print version:

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I love the mood of this cover and I feel it really embodies how this case got away from Matt and Leigh for while. This fire is the low point of the book for everyone involved, so it's right that it's the focal point of the cover.

One more Abbott and Lowell cover to go next week as we reveal the new face of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER!


Over the next few weeks, I have some exciting cover reveals for our Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries. When Five Star closed down its mystery line, they returned the hard cover publication rights to us. And while we didn't want to continue to publish this series in hard cover, trade paperback seemed like the perfect print format. We commissioned all new covers for the series as created by Jess Danna Photography and we'll be bringing them to you one at a time. And as I find the process of making these covers interesting, we'll also look at how the individual designs came about.

DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT depends very heavily on its sense of place.The salt marshes of Essex county are practically a character in the book. It's also an area that's near and dear to my heart and my daughters' who accompanied me to the marsh in Massachusetts on a research trip. So when Jess and I sat down to brainstorm the new cover, there was really only one possibility for us - our own photos of the actual marsh.

From a technical standpoint, Jess was given some challenges, but easily managed them. All our shots were taken in bright and cheerful daylight, but that wasn't the mood we wanted. We wanted something that captured the darkness and danger of the marsh.

She started with these two pictures:

She combined the images, removed any sign of life in the form of houses or outbuildings, changed day into night, added the correct star constellations for when the book is set in that location (September 2012), and then spent time working the colour tones to make them just right.

Honestly, I really love this cover. It's Matt and Leigh's marsh, right down to the last detail. Looking at it, I remember standing there, the sea wind blowing around us, hearing bird song and the rush of water through the marsh grasses. It's like a trip down memory lane, back to one of my favourite places.

Now, without further ado, here is the finished cover:

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And here the full cover for the trade paperback print edition which will be available later in April:

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More to come on availability in the coming weeks as we are actively finalizing this version of the series.

Next cover reveal - A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH!

Big Publishing News!

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We've known for about a month, but Ann and I are thrilled to finally be able to share our big news that we've contracted with Kensington Books to bring you more of Meg Jennings, Hawk, and the rest of the FBI K-9 team!

Kensington has signed us for books four and five in the FBI K-9 series, and, like the first three books, they will launch in hardcover and e-book. We don't have release dates yet, but seeing as we have a continuation of our December 1st deadlines for manuscript delivery, I'm hopeful that book four will follow STORM RISING by a year or so after its November 27, 2018 release to keep the series rolling.

So buckle up, there's a lot more exciting K-9 adventures yet to come!

Cover Reveal for FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING!

Today I have the first of four (yes, you read that right... FOUR) new covers to reveal over the coming weeks. We're going to start off with a bang and the book that many of you have asked for—the upcoming FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING, coming November 27, 2018.

STORM RISING takes place a few months after BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE, giving Meg time to heal after that final struggle, and for Meg and Hawk to get back in the game. Along with the other FBI K-9 teams, they set out to rescue the lost and the missing after a terrible hurricane hits the east coast, but, in the end, it isn't Mother Nature that will put them all at risk...

The heart-pounding thriller of a series continues as FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 companion confront the fury of nature—and the more dangerous nature of man . . .
In the wake of a devastating hurricane, Special Agent Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk—invaluable members of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team—have been deployed to Virginia Beach. They have their work cut out for them. Amid graveyards of debris, and the buried cries for help, the search and rescue operation begins. The most alarming discovery is yet to come—a teenage girl hiding in the Great Dismal Swamp. Shaken by the storm, she has reason to be scared. But this young survivor is terrified of so much more.

Her name is Emma—a disheveled runaway lost to the sordid underbelly of a Virginia sex-trafficking ring. Its leader has disappeared in the chaos—along with other victims. With so much evidence, and so many witnesses, seemingly washed away, Meg joins forces with Special Agent Walter Van Cleave to ensure no further harm comes to their vulnerable charge. They soon discover that this is no small-time localized syndicate. Its branches are rooted in some of the most influential powers in Virginia. Now as Meg’s investigation digs deeper, she’s making some very dangerous enemies. And one by one, they’re coming out of the storm to stop her.

The one thing I really wanted to see in this cover was a little more action. The covers for LONE WOLF and BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE are wonderful, but static, and I felt it was time for something a little different. So Kensington picked up the ball and ran with that request, giving us a scene from early in the book when the teams are out in the boats in a devastated Virginia Beach. When the boat doesn't go fast enough, Hawk takes matters into his own hands to launch himself out of the boat. He is a water dog, after all! And, for him, the live find is everything. In my head, Meg is in the prow of the boat, just off scene as Hawk leads the way to a rescue:

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I love this cover and think they did a fantastic job!

And for those who asked about advanced buy links, the book is now available for pre-order at these fine retailers, with more to come: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo.

More new covers to come soon as we launch the new look of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries!

Changes To The Blog In 2018


Happy New Year! Many would say that 2017 has been a questionable year on multiple levels, so here’s hoping that 2018 brings prosperity, safety, and peace to all.

As we move into 2018, I’m looking ahead to my work schedule for the coming months and how to manage both my day job and my writing. My goal for 2018 is to negotiate for additional contacted books in Kensington’s FBI K-9 series, but also to sell a couple of new proposals that I’ll be working on early in the year. I’m not a full-time writer, so figuring out how to manage this on top of my 40 hour/week job as a lab manager always involves a lot of juggling (the goal being, as my husband has stated in the past, to not end up in the hospital after burning out). I want to be able to manage two, if not three, projects a year, so that means I need to be more intentional about my writing time. Schedules and self-imposed deadlines have always been my go-to method, including charted weekly goals when drafting, which is often the hardest part of the process for me. But this also means I’m going to ease back from weekly blogging as that can involve hours of research and writing time that I could dedicate instead to my manuscript.

Does that mean you won’t hear from me at all? Absolutely not. All publishing news, and cover reveals, and early sneak peeks will come through my newsletter  and the blog. And I’ll be sure to blog any hot and interesting related stories that come across my desk. But, at least for the short term, I want to concentrate on my upcoming fiction projects, so that means you’ll hear from me less often.

However, there is still lots to come this year. Ann and I turned in the third FBI K-9s book, STORM RISING, at the end of November, so we expect developmental edits to arrive any day now as we prepare for a fall release. And my daughter Jess, the creative skills behind the cover for LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, and I are working on the new covers for DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH and TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER as we prepare for their re-release (hopefully in February), making the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries a complete series in trade paperback format. And hopefully there will some announcements over the year concerning new projects.

Lots to look forward to in 2018, so hang onto your hat, here we go!

Photo credit: DaPuglet

Happy Holidays! And May I Suggest...

It’s that time of year again, when people are frantically shopping for the holidays and the black cloud of university final exams is hovering over select houses (ours being one of them!). For me personally, it’s not often that I can say the Christmas season is the most relaxed schedule I’ve had in a while, but it’s certainly true this year. With two book launches and a completed manuscript in my rear-view mirror, I’m finally getting the chance to concentrate on the Christmas season and to recharge a bit. Hallelujah! Being busy is great, but a person needs a little downtime every once in a while to avoid burnout.

So, dear reader, while you are working on your own shopping lists, may I suggest some great books for the mystery and thriller readers in your life?

For the mystery reader/geek/science-leaning/lover of a touch of romance—The Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries:

  • DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT: The book that started it all. Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott joins forces with Boston University’s Dr. Matthew Lowell when skeletal murder victims are found buried on the Essex coast.
  • NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL: Matt, Leigh, and the team reunite when the remains of a young woman are found carelessly tossed away in a garbage dump.
  • A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH: As Halloween looms and bodies are discovered following catastrophic arson fires, Matt and Leigh are drawn into Salem’s Witchcraft community to stop the killings.
  • TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER: The discovery of human remains in a Prohibition-era speakeasy starts Matt and Leigh’s investigation into a  series of connected murders spanning from the 1930s to present day.
  • LAMENT THE COMMON BONES: When a skeleton in a university research lab is found to be a murder victim, Matt brings the case to Leigh, setting off a deadly chase that could mean the end of the team… permanently.

For the thriller reader/dog lover—The FBI K-9s:

  • LONE WOLF: The first book in our newest series features FBI handler Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue black Labrador, Hawk, as they track down a mad bomber with a grudge who is blowing up government buildings, killing innocent bystanders inside.
  • BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: When victims resembling Meg are kidnapped and trapped in deadly scenarios, the team can only save them if they are able to decipher a cryptic coded message, solve the resulting puzzle, and rescue the victims before time runs out.

The FBI K-9s series continues next fall with STORM RISING!

No matter what holiday season you celebrate, best wishes to you to enjoy it with family and friends, and to find the time to recharge and rejuvenate as you look forward to the new year. See you in 2018!

The CreateSpace Experience

First of all, I’m happy to say that Ann and I completed the manuscript for FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING, and passed it off to Esi Sogah, our editor at Kensington. We’re looking forward to working with her to fine tune the story in the new year.

Publishing LAMENT THE COMMON BONES was certainly a different experience for me. I’m the first one to admit that I like working with a publishing house rather than doing it myself. Maybe it’s because I have a full-time job on top of a busy writing schedule, but I really appreciate not having to worry about covers and formatting and distribution etc. Also, we’ve been lucky to have great publishing partners, so I wasn’t actively searching out another avenue to publishing. But we also had a manuscript that was crucial to the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries because it tied up a major multi-book arc, so, in the end, there wasn’t really any question about whether we’d put it out or not. Luckily, authors now have more options than ever if they want to self-publish.

We’d self-pubbed a novella before, but this was the first time I’d done a print version as well as an e-book. Because of my previous experience publishing NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL through Kindle Direct Publishing and Kobo’s Writing Life, I knew the e-book would be no problem and could be done separately, but I looked to CreateSpace to put the print copy together and to ensure seamless delivery through Amazon worldwide.


When LAMENT THE COMMON BONES was orphaned by Five Star’s decision to close down their mystery line, the book was already written and had gone through the developmental edit. But we knew it needed another set of eyes on it, so the amazing M.M. Harden graciously offered her services as our copy editor. She can adjust her edit based on what an author is looking for; I asked to be hit with both barrels, and definitely got it in the form of a comprehensive and critical edit. My theory has always been that you have to know the flaws in a book so you can fix them. Yes, it’s hard on your ego and you hate to see your baby bleeding, but the final completed version was so much improved, it was definitely worth it.

A huge thank you goes to my husband Rick for taking on the task of formatting the manuscript. Not difficult work, but fiddly and time consuming in the extreme, requiring a large amount of patience for whenever Word starts getting frisky and doing things on its own (or so it seems!). All those section breaks and text formatting, then adjustments around page numbers, and indent size, and page size, and so on. So many changes and slightly different versions of the manuscript. However, we learned a lot with this manuscript that will make subsequent attempts MUCH easier. I will say that CreateSpace’s ability to upload the document and then convert it into a virtual live version of the printed book was incredibly helpful to the fine-tuning process. Many versions, many uploads, but we worked through the kinks until we had the interior exactly as we wanted.

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The cover was a little trickier, but was not beyond my daughter Jess’s skills. She’s also the brains behind the cover for NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL, but now has a lot more experience as a photographer and photo editor under her belt. She initially did the front cover for the e-book version, but then expanded that image into the full cover complete with spine, back cover copy, and previous reviews for Abbott and Lowell. It took a few kicks at the can to get the cover right (partly due to CreateSpace’s vague error emails about why the cover didn’t work during the review process). But this is another exercise that taught us a lot and we’ll definitely be more prepared next time.

Getting an ISBN for each of the three versions was a breeze as Collections Canada provides them free of charge to Canadian publishers, so that was lightning fast and saved purchasing separate numbers for each.

This pretty much put the print copy together, so we completed the setup and I ordered a hard copy proof to make sure there weren’t any errors (and yes, there were… I always catch errors in new formats because I look at the book differently). This was a step that cost a little and took some time to have the copy shipped, but was well worth both.

Rick reformatted the manuscript for the e-book versions and we got those up and ready for pre-order with a few weeks to go still. This process would have been a little simpler if I hadn’t been juggling the still work-in-process post-crit team manuscript for STORM RISING, but somehow it all managed to fit in. And on November 21st, LAMENT THE COMMON BONES went live. And I survived the self-publishing process! ;)

What’s next for Abbott and Lowell? I’m going to tackle the re-release of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, AND TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER in print. Five Star has stopped printing the hardcovers, and, honestly, I always thought those were too expensive for a debut author’s book, so I’m going to be putting together the trade paperback versions to match LAMENT THE COMMON BONES. So, watch for new covers to come in the new year with the book releases following shortly after. Rick and I are already well into the formatting of those manuscripts and I’ll be working with Jess over the next month or two to get new covers ready to go. More of that in the new year. Stay tuned!

Back Next Week!


The fall has been absolutely insane. September held the release of BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. October was Bouchercon and our fantastic crit team's return of all their copies of STORM RISING (FBI K-9s #3) which then required a full edit (as it always does). November has been crazy between getting LAMENT THE COMMON BONES ready for publication and working on the final edits of STORM which is due in three days. So I'm head down on the final couple of passes of STORM right now and I'll be back with a real post next week, no doubt feeling about two hundred pounds lighter with no deadline hanging over me (seriously... I may not know what to do with myself without one!).

See you next week!



I'm happy to announce that the latest book in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries is out today! Looking for a holiday gift idea for the mystery reader in your life? LAMENT THE COMMON BONES could be the book for you. And never fear that it's book #5 in the series - we had a number of early readers who were unfamiliar with the series, and they all said that it was extremely accessible to new readers (and they now need to go back and catch up on books 1 - 4!). So with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other holiday celebrations just around the corner, keep this book in mind as a gift idea for the readers in your life.

You'll find LAMENT THE COMMON BONES at the following fine outlets:
Trade paperback and Kindle e-book: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk
E-book for both Kobo and Nook e-readers: Indigo.ca and Kobo.com

When death hides in plain sight, only the most discerning eye can see the truth.

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Matt Lowell and his team of grad students don’t go looking for death—it usually comes to them. But when one of Matt’s students suspects the skeleton hanging in a top competitor’s lab is actually from a murder victim, Matt has no choice but to sneak in to confirm a suspicious death. Once the case comes to Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott, the team is back together again.

While trying to handle the new murder case, Matt and Leigh also uncover new evidence behind the mysterious deliveries intended to smear the name of Leigh’s father, an honored cop, fallen in the line of duty four years before. When the person behind the deliveries is finally uncovered, it becomes clear that lives are in jeopardy if they attempt to thwart him. At the same time, as the murder case delves into underground societies and grows complicated when the killer himself becomes a victim, it will take all of Matt and Leigh’s teamwork to solve both cases and escape with their lives.

Happy reading and gift giving!


We’re only a week away from the release of LAMENT THE COMMON BONES! So, as a special treat to our fabulous readers who have been waiting so long since TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, Ann and I would like to give you a little sneak peek of our upcoming release. We really hit the ground running (and ducking bullets) in LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, so settle in for the explosive beginning of the book and then the start of the case that sets everything in motion:

When death hides in plain sight, only the most discerning eye can see the truth.

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Matt Lowell and his team of grad students don’t go looking for death—it usually comes to them. But when one of Matt’s students suspects the skeleton hanging in a top competitor’s lab is actually from a murder victim, Matt has no choice but to sneak in to confirm a suspicious death. Once the case comes to Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott, the team is back together again.

While trying to handle the new murder case, Matt and Leigh also uncover new evidence behind the mysterious deliveries intended to smear the name of Leigh’s father, an honored cop, fallen in the line of duty four years before. When the person behind the deliveries is finally uncovered, it becomes clear that lives are in jeopardy if they attempt to thwart him. At the same time, as the murder case delves into underground societies and grows complicated when the killer himself becomes a victim, it will take all of Matt and Leigh’s teamwork to solve both cases and escape with their lives.

Read Chapters One to Three here: LAMENT THE COMMON BONES Ch. 1 - 3

Like instant gratification and want your copy waiting for you when you wake up on November 21st? For e-book readers, we have the following links ready for pre-order:

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077721M4V/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/lament-the-common-bones

A New Method to Determine Time Since Death?


There are two significant challenges in any criminal investigation involving badly decomposed or skeletonized remains: who is the victim and when did he or she die?

In the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, we’ve dealt with the time since death, or post mortem interval (PMI), issue a few times. In the very first book in the series, DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, Trooper Leigh Abbott and Dr. Matt Lowell nearly come to blows when Leigh needs a time since death estimate so she can start looking at missing persons reports, and Matt, a quintessential scientist, refuses to guess when he’s lacking sufficient data. In TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, when a skeleton is found immured behind a brick wall, it is Dr. Edward Rowe and his knowledge of history that dates the skeleton. But in LAMENT THE COMMON BONES (out two weeks today!), when a murder victim is found hanging in a forensic anthropology lab, it’s impossible for Matt to estimate the PMI because he’s missing the usual markers—tissue decomposition or bone weathering. The best he can do is to provide a minimum PMI based on the time required to prepare the bones. The maximum can be determined by the last time the victim was seen alive, but that only provides at best a detrimentally large window for a murder investigation. However, a small side storyline involves Dr. Trevor Sharpe, Matt’s scientific arch nemesis, and why Matt hates him so much. In the end, it all has to do with PMI estimates and the extent some researchers will go to in their search for scientific glory.

In the real world, a lack of understanding of PMI started the criminal investigative aspect of forensic anthropology as we currently know it when Dr. Bill Bass misjudged the age of a corpse by over a century (see the fascinating story of Colonel William Shy). As a result, he started the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (nicknamed the ‘Body Farm’) in 1981. Since then, research into decomposition in different locations and during different seasons, scavenging, the affect of trauma, entomology, and many, many other aspects of the process of death have elucidated scientific details that have greatly improved criminal investigations.

However, definitive estimates of PMI continue to elude scientists in certain cases, especially those involving skeletonized remains. Without definitive tissue markers, or obvious weathering clues, some estimates around PMI can span months or even years, greatly complicating any criminal investigation. Enter Lincoln Memorial University, Dr. Beatrix Dudzik, and her new project to study bone marrow, the protected inner contents of bones that produce both red and white blood cells. They hope to use the decomposition of lipids within the bone marrow to estimate the time elapsed since death. They are basing their research on a study by Paul Wood and Natalie Shirley where PMI was reliably determined based on skeletal muscle decomposition and the biochemical breakdown products produced up to a year after death. Knowing the difficulties involved in skeletal remains, Dudzik would like to translate a similar breakdown process to bone marrow.

The study will take place at the Body Farm, using twenty donor cadavers over a two-year time period, as well as samples already in the Body Farm’s bone collection with known PMI’s from one to thirty years. The study, which will start in January 2018, will study three types of bones specifically—the calcaneus from the ankle, the tibia from the lower leg, and a vertebrae—as well as teeth to test for lipid breakdown products.

The group hopes that the initial two-year study will produce data allowing for an extension and additional research to better understand this complicated process.


LAMENT THE COMMON BONES releases two weeks from today and we’ve got a couple of buy links already up for readers who like instant gratification and want their copy waiting for them when they wake up on November 21st. So for e-book readers, we have the following links:

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077721M4V/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/lament-the-common-bones

Newsletter readers are getting an advanced sneak peek at the first three chapters of the book today, but come back to the blog next week for a chance to see the exciting opening chapters early!

Forensic Case Files: The Exhumation of H.H. Holmes


We’re ramping up toward the release of Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries #5, LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, so I thought it would be fun to do a forensic anthropology story this week. There was a big story last month that I didn’t review because we were busy with the launch of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, but it’s worth covering—the exhumation and the analysis of the body buried in the grave belonging to H.H. Holmes.

For anyone unfamiliar with Dr. Henry Howard (H.H) Holmes, he was a serial killer and con artist who operated against the backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Holmes, an alias of Herman Webster Mudgett, was born in New Hampshire in 1861, graduated from the University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery in 1884, and was a bigamist, at one point being married to three women simultaneously while being engaged to several others.

Holmes settled in Chicago in 1886 and purchased a drug store on a busy intersection in the Englewood neighbourhood. He purchased a lot on the opposite corner from the drug store, designed, and then started construction of a multi-use, three-story building—a drug store on the ground floor with apartments and hotel rooms above that he claimed were part of the World’s Fair Hotel (though there is no evidence they were ever used for this purpose, or even fully completed). His own rooms were located on the third floor.


The upper floors of the building were a nightmarish design of soundproofed rooms, labyrinthine corridors, doors that locked only from the outside, air-tight spaces with installed gas vents, and chutes that transported room occupants to the basement for incineration or to be dissolved in vats of acid. Holmes was ingenious in his methods, even ensuring that no single builder understood the depravity of the building’s design—he would fire workers after short contacts, ensuring that no one ever fully understood the full horror of his plans.

Following the discovery of the building’s real purpose, it was christened ‘The Murder Castle’—a place where people went in, but never came out. Holmes himself admitted to killing twenty-seven individuals, though only nine deaths were confirmed. However, his legend has grown, and some accounts report over two hundred deaths at his hands. What is certain is that several of his paramours/fiancées lost their lives inside the Castle, as well as a number of women who responded to advertisements for employment.

Apart from the lives lost in 1893 during the World’s Fair, it was actually the death of a fellow con artist that finally convicted Holmes. The pair concocted a scheme to fake the death of an inventor in a laboratory explosion and fire. Benjamin Pitezel set up the fake persona and purchased a $10,000 insurance policy. Holmes was supposed to produce a body to be disfigured during the fire, but, instead, he killed Pitezel so he could make the insurance claim without having to split it with a partner. Holmes was eventually caught, tried for Pitezel’s murder, and sentenced to death. He was hanged in 1896.

Earlier this year, a request was made by the Mudgett family to exhume Holmes’s grave to ensure he was buried there. Family legend told that despite Holmes’s request to be buried in a coffin filled with cement and then interred under seven three-thousand-pound barrels of cement to deter grave robbers and infamy seekers, he had escaped execution. The exhumation order was granted and the body was recovered last spring.

Samantha Cox, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, completed the examination. Due to the method of burial within cement, the body had not fully decomposed. The man’s burial clothes were intact and he still sported a mustache, but the tissues were mostly putrefied but not fully liquefied. Due to the extent of decomposition, DNA could not be extracted from the remaining tissue slurry, but was instead extracted from tooth pulp for PCR and familial DNA profiling. Last month, the results were revealed: the body in the grave of H.H. Holmes was indeed Holmes himself. Despite his wily ways and life of crime, in the end, he was caught and punished. Holmes body was returned to his grave and buried once again.

As a side note, anyone who is interested in more on the life of H.H. Holmes would enjoy the narrative non-fiction novel ‘The Devil in the White City’ by Erik Larson. It’s a well-researched, fascinating account of both the 1893 World’s Fair ‘Columbian Exposition’ and the simultaneous, horrific career of H.H. Holmes.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Back From Bouchercon

Sorry about the radio silence last week. I was just back from Bouchercon, was up to my eyeballs in getting LAMENT THE COMMON BONES ready for our early readers, and three out of four of our cats were freshly vaccinated and not all were doing well. But I’m back on track and ready for an update on the past few weeks.


Bouchercon: Bouchercon 2017 was a great success. Louise Penny was, as always, a standout Guest of Honour. As popular and well-known as she is, she’s still gracious, funny, and down-to-earth. She talked about the loss of her beloved husband Michael with honesty and love, had insightful stories about her early days of writing and what she’s learned over the years, and had endless time for fans at all of her signings (each one that went on for hours at a time). The conference was in a great location, was well organized, and had something for everyone from fans, to beginning writers, to battle-scarred veterans.

Personally, I had a great time. My panel on the Critters of Crime was a blast, and a special thank you goes to moderator Michael Kurland, and fellow panelists Margaret Mizushima, Janet Finsilver, Eileen F. Watkins, and Kelly Oliver. It was great to get together with fellow Crime Writers of Canada authors, who were extremely well represented. Kensington also had a significant presence and we had an extremely popular author signing. It was a pleasure meeting so many authors I’d only interacted with on-line, as well as new readers. The Kensington authors even had a fun outing to the Penguin Random House head office in Toronto for a lovely wine and cheese open house. I came home from the conference pretty tired, but very satisfied with my time away.

LAMENT THE COMMON BONES: Back home again, my husband Rick and I continued to work on getting LAMENT ready to go out to early readers. Rick has put an immense amount of time into all the persnickety formatting that is required for CreateSpace as well as for .mobi and .epub file production. Thanks also to my daughter, Jess, the artistic mind and the skills behind putting the full cover together while dealing with CreateSpace’s finicky requirements and tackling the project every time we were slightly off target. I’m happy to say that the print copy is now ready to go. A proof copy is ordered and once I’ve reviewed that, it’s ready to print and ship. Early readers and bloggers now have their advance copies and we’re looking forward to early reviews in the coming weeks. We’ll also have buy links coming in the next few weeks.

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Newsletter: A new book coming out means that new editions of the newsletter will be coming out shortly. Want a sneak peak at the hit-the-ground running opening chapters that an early reader got sucked into today when she needed to get out and get things done (sorry, D!)? Then sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the home page here at Skeleton Keys.

FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING: Our fantastic crit team has returned their copies of STORM RISING, so we’re back at work on the final finishing touches before the manuscript is due to our editor at the end of next month. They made some really great suggestions, and, fortunately, have no major plot issues, so we’re in good shape with time to spare to make sure the manuscript is squeaky clean before we hand it in.

And just a reminder that Halloween is coming and when it comes to book or treat, we vote book! And may we suggest BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE as your book of choice? We continue to hold a 4.53 average on Goodreads and readers are loving it!

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A Cover Reveal and Some Publishing News

We’ve got some great news about the fifth book in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries: it will release on Tuesday, November 21st. That’s only six weeks away!

Why such short notice? Well, publishing is a business and LAMENT THE COMMON BONES got caught in the crossfire of a difficult business decision. Five Star published DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, and TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER (we self-published the novella, NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL). My editor read LAMENT THE COMMON BONES and loved it, saying it was our best Abbott and Lowell yet. The contract was even discussed. But then the publishing house made the decision to close down the entire mystery line and go forward only with westerns. That orphaned our book and the series. Hats off to our agent, Nicole Resciniti, who worked tirelessly to try to move the series to another pub house, but, realistically, selling the fifth book in a series when another house still has the rights to all the other full-length novels simply wasn’t possible. Once we knew that we had exhausted all our traditional options, we made the decision to self-publish. And since it was just our schedule that was the deciding factor around timing, we slotted it in after the launch of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE and just before the manuscript of STORM RISING is due to our Kensington editor on December 1st. Thus, November 21st. We also felt our readers had waited more than long enough for this series installment, so sooner was definitely preferable to later.

But a new book means that all-exciting moment when we get to release a sparkly new cover! Many, many thanks to the very talented Jess Danna for creating this cover for us. We love it and hope you will too! And now without further ado…


It’s been a while since we’ve spent some time with Matt and Leigh, so where were we?  When we last left them, they’d solved a series of murders in Boston dating all the way back to prohibition, and had just reunited an unjustly separated family. Their off-the-books investigation into the mysterious packages implicating Leigh’s murdered father in nefarious dealings had revealed a frightening possibility, causing Leigh to believe that she was in danger. And then a new investigation is discovered literally standing in the corner of a rival’s forensic anthropology lab…


When death hides in plain sight, only the most discerning eye can see the truth.

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Matt Lowell and his team of grad students don’t go looking for death—it usually comes to them. But when one of Matt’s students suspects the skeleton hanging in a top competitor’s lab is actually from a murder victim, Matt has no choice but to sneak in to confirm a suspicious death. Once the case comes to Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott, the team is back together again.

While trying to handle the new murder case, Matt and Leigh also uncover new evidence behind the mysterious deliveries intended to smear the name of Leigh’s father, an honored cop, fallen in the line of duty four years before. When the person behind the deliveries is finally uncovered, it becomes clear that lives are in jeopardy if they attempt to thwart him. At the same time, as the murder case delves into underground societies and grows complicated when the killer himself becomes a victim, it will take all of Matt and Leigh’s teamwork to solve both cases and escape with their lives.


LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, out in trade paperback and e-book on November 21st! Buy links coming soon!


I was happy to celebrate the launch of BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE this past weekend with family and friends. It was a lovely, intimate gathering at our wonderful downtown indie bookshop, A Different Drummer. We've had some big, raucous launches before, but this one had more of the air of a dinner party where people lingered chatting and eating long after the reading. It was a really nice affair, and it gave me the chance to really spend time with people which was enjoyable and relaxing. Many thanks to all who attended!

Gathering and loading up plates:


The wonderful Ian Elliott kicking us off for a speech and a reading:


Food for the humans:

Food to take home to the dogs:

A gift basket to win, and our other series was nicely highlighted as well:

Meeting new friends and hanging out with old friends:


Signing books!

Many thanks for my older daughter, Jess Danna, for once again lending me her considerable photographic skills, and my younger daughter Jordan, for being my right hand and spending hours in the kitchen with me!


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Whoo hoo! It’s publication day!! Ann and I are happy to announce that BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE is now available. It’s been getting some great early buzz on Goodreads, and one of the comments we’ve noticed most is early readers saying that you don’t need to have read LONE WOLF to follow along. This is really great to hear because we really tried to write this second series installment as much as a standalone as possible because you never know where a reader’s entry point will be. In fact, I’ve seen many comments from people who intended to go back and read LONE WOLF based on the strength of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE is available in hardcover and e-book (with the audio version coming in November) from these fine sellers: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, BAM, IndieBound, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers.

Happy reading!

In this powerful K-9 crime thriller, FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her trusted search-and-rescue Labrador, Hawk, must race against the clock before a diabolical killer strikes again…
Somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area, a woman lies helpless in a box. Beneath the earth. Barely breathing. Buried alive. In Quantico, the FBI receives a coded message from the woman’s abductor. He wants to play a game with them: decipher the clues, find the grave, save the girl. The FBI’s top cryptanalysts crack the code, and Special Agent Meg Jennings and her K-9 partner, Hawk, scramble to follow a trail of false leads to the scene of the crime. By the time they solve the puzzle, it’s too late. But the killer’s game is far from over . . .
Soon another message arrives. Another victim is taken, and the deadly pattern is repeated—again and again. Each kidnapping triggers another desperate race against time, each with the possibility of another senseless death. That’s when Meg decides to try something drastic. Break the Bureau’s protocol. Bring in her brilliant sister, Cara, a genius at word games, to decipher the kidnapper’s twisted clues. Meg knows she’s risking her career to do it, but she’s determined not to let one more person die under her and Hawk’s watch. If the plan fails, it could bite them in the end. And if it leads to the killer, it could bury them forever . . .

One Week to the Release of BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

We’re only a week away from the release of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, the second book in the FBI K-9s and things are getting excited chez Sara Driscoll.

So what’s going on? Yesterday, I was featured on Alli Sinclair’s blog highlighting the story behind the FBI K-9s series. Next Monday, September 25th, the day before the release, LONE WOLF is going to be the Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon, so it will be a great opportunity to try out the book that started the series for a cheap and cheerful deal price the day before the second book comes out. It’s the big launch on Tuesday, September 26th, then I’ll be on Joan Reeves’s Slingwords blog on the 27th, and finally I’ll be throwing a big launch party here in Burlington, Ontario on Saturday, September 30th (details at the end of this post). Whew! Going to be a busy few weeks!

So, in anticipation of the launch of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, I have a special treat: the first chapter of the book so you can dive in for a taste of what’s to come next week. We toss you right into the thick of things as the first victim reported to the team goes missing and it’s a mad chase to save her life. Do they succeed? Let’s find out


Stay tuned for more on September 26th!

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It’s time for a party! If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, please join me for the launch of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!